National Parks

Antietam boasts printine fields, woods

Antietam boasts printine fields, woods

September 24, 2006


The single bloodiest day of fighting during the Civil War is remembered in pristine fields and woods in a park treasured for not being developed with tourist amenities.

On Sept. 17, 1862, the North pushed back an attempt by the South's Gen. Robert E. Lee to cross into Maryland. Three battles raged throughout the day, ending with more than 23,000 men dead, wounded or missing.

You can learn about the battle from rangers, cassette tapes, brochures, movies and plaques on the battlefield. The park also offers hiking and biking.


Admission is $4 per person or $6 per family. The park is on Md. 65 near Sharpsburg. For more information, visit the park's Web site at or call 301-432-5124.

Appalachian Trail

The 2,175-mile Appalachian National Scenic Trail snakes from Maine to Georgia, with approximately 40 miles in Washington County.

The Maryland portion of the trail runs along the backbone of South Mountain, a north-south ridge that extends from Pennsylvania to the Potomac River.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy Web site says this portion of the trail, with an elevation of 230 to 1,880 feet, is ideal for three- or four-day trips. Hikers are required to stay at designated shelters and campsites, according to the Web site.

The conservancy says the time to hit the trail is mid-April through mid-June and September and October. Summer heat and humidity can occasionally be oppressive, the Web site says.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy Web site is at

Chesapeake & Ohio Canal

The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal was built to move goods west through the Potomac Valley to Pittsburgh, but only made it as far as Cumberland, Md.

It flanks about 79 miles of the Potomac River through Washington County.

The canal was in use from 1850 until 1924, when flooding caused serious damage.

The canal sat in ruins until 1954, when U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas walked virtually the entire way to bring attention to its beauty and to keep it from becoming a highway.

The walk prompted Congress to declare the park a national monument in 1961. It was named a national historical park in 1971.

The park is open during daylight hours. Admission is free.

For information, go to or call 301-739-4200.

Harpers Ferry

About 800 acres of Harpers Ferry (W.Va.) National Historical Park are in Washington County.

The armory at Harpers Ferry, W.Va., was the site of an anti-slavery raid led by John Brown. On Oct. 16, 1859, Brown and 21 men attacked the armory and rounded up 60 men from the area as hostages. Government forces led by Col. Robert E. Lee attacked the armory and killed 10 men, including two of Brown's sons.

Brown was later hanged for his actions.

Washington County's portion of the park boasts Maryland Heights, a haven for climbers. Maryland Heights was a strategic military location throughout the four years of the Civil War, held most often by Union troops.

In September 1862, Confederate forces led by Gen. Stonewall Jackson captured 12,500 Union troops at Harpers Ferry.

Admission to the park is $4 for people arriving by foot, bicycles or motorcycles. A three-day pass for other vehicles is $6. For more information, go to or call 304-535-6029.


Catoctin Mountain Park, which is centered in Frederick County, Md., offers 23 miles of trails. A small portion of the nearly 6,000-acre park is in Washington County.

The park offers hiking, skiing and snowshoeing, and it also has campgrounds, family cabin camping and two picnic areas. Six interpretive trails are available, and horseback riding is allowed on one six-mile trail.

The park is open year-round during daylight hours. Admission is free. Dogs are allowed on leashes.

For more information, go to or call 301-663-9388.

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